Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week my 2016 Speech series covers its first Democrat: Bernie Sanders. As you can probably predict, I like what Bernie is saying. But liberals like me still have questions to consider: Is his candidacy just a little too quixotic? And if Hillary is going to be the nominee anyway — and if nobody remotely reasonable is going to win the Republican nomination — should we already be worrying about the fall campaign instead? Or is it important that somebody plant the progressive flag, whether he wins or not?

A second featured article arose when a section of the weekly summary got out of hand. An explanation of Michael Newdow’s new strategy to use the RFRA in getting “In God we trust” off our money became a more general “Turning the Theocracy Against Itself”.

The weekly summary has a lot of parts that nearly turned into articles: the Irish marriage equality referendum, the Santa Barbara oil spill (which is partly my fault), the political fault line between big business and small business, and the bizarre opinions of the woman who is now Israel’s top diplomat. Since the weekly word limit was already blown away, I figured I might as well have a double closing: a great cartoon about the power of unions, and Coldplay’s attempt to turn Game of Thrones into a musical.

The theocracy article should post shortly, and the Sanders article around ten or so (EDT). Expect the weekly summary before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two posts demanded to be written this week, which pushes my Bernie Sanders article off another week.

In the first, I identify the problem that was really at the root of Jeb Bush’s bad week: Republicans have never come up with a better response to the disaster of his brother’s administration than to pretend George W. Bush was never president. They won’t defend W and they won’t denounce him. They haven’t changed their philosophy to explain why he was wrong. So his name can never be mentioned. That denial is why they get angry whenever Democrats bring him up: When is Obama going to stop blaming other people for his problems?

The one candidate who can’t use this strategy is Jeb Bush. So what’s he going to do? I discuss that question in “2016’s Mission Impossible: Support Jeb While Forgetting George”. It should be out around 8 EDT or so.

In the second article, I decided the misinformation Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee are spreading about a possible gay-marriage decision by the Supreme Court needs some kind of response. Under the guise of respecting the Constitution, Carson and Huckabee are just flat-out lying about our system of government. That kind of propaganda has results that linger beyond the immediate issue, so I wrote “Civics for Dummies: Judicial Review”. Expect it about ten.

That doesn’t leave much room for a weekly summary, but I do have to say a few things about the death penalty and why we shouldn’t identify the enemy as “radical Islam”. And Texas Senate Republicans tweeted a very revealing image about religious freedom. I’m still looking for a good closing, so I’m not sure when it will be out.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back from my break to go on a one-stop speaking tour, and it’s been an eventful couple of weeks. Unfortunately, a lot of what has been buzzing around the media has been articles that usually get bookmarked in my Crazy folder, the kind of stories where my first reaction isn’t “What happened?” but “Somebody really did that?”

So yes, residents of Bastrop, Texas (pop. 7,218) really did grill a U.S.  lieutenant colonel about whether he was planning a military takeover of their town, complete with gun confiscation. (When he said no, they didn’t believe him.) Kids on their way to a prom in Colorado really did stop to pose for pictures with guns and a Confederate flag. Anti-Muslim extremists in the U.S. really did hold a Muhammad cartoon contest, and two gun-wielding Muslims really did fall for that bait and get themselves killed.

I’ve often puzzled over how the Sift should respond to such stuff — sometimes the incident or rumor has already gotten too much attention, so covering it just makes it worse — and so this week I’m trying something new: I’m introducing my Crazy Scale, based on the color-coded fire-danger scale you see in the national parks. It’s for stories where the question you really need answered is: “How concerned should I be?” In other words: Can you safely ignore this bit of craziness? Can you laugh and move on? Or does it deserve more of your attention than that?

That’s the featured article this week. It’s almost done, and should be out before 8 EDT. In the weekly summary, we’ve got a bunch of new presidential candidates, including Bernie Sanders, who will get a longer article next week. (In general, I’m trying not to make the Sift all-2016, all-the-time. So I’ll get around to Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina in my own good time, and Mike Huckabee already shows up in the crazy-scale article.) A lot of interesting discussion came out of the Baltimore riot. There’s more about the complexity of public opinion on abortion. And we’ll close with a musical trip to Negrotown, guided by Key & Peele. I’m aiming to have that out around 11.


The Monday Morning Teaser

You knew, once it was clear that Hillary was in the race, that there’d be new attempts to raise some kind of scandal. Bill’s administration seldom went more than a few months without somebody attempting to make a scandal out of something: Whitewater, Travelgate, Vince Foster … there was always something. Monica Lewinsky was the scandal that finally stuck, but that came after years of throwing mud at the wall.

This week’s featured post looks at the new book Clinton Cash and the wannabee scandal that the NYT picked up from it this week. It just needs a proofreading, so it should be out within the hour.

The week provides a lot of other stuff to talk about: Earth Day, a drone mistake, Obama vs. Warren on the trade deal, and the ongoing spectacle of presidential candidates courting billionaires rather than voters. I didn’t have time or space to give those topics the treatment they deserve, so I’ll be pointing you to other people’s stuff.

And this week I ran across some fascinating articles not directly related to the headlines: a well-designed poll revealed the complexity of the public’s feelings about abortion, and somebody red-penciled Bobby Jindal’s op-ed on gay marriage marriage equality and religious freedom discrimination to make it more accurate. Plus there’s some fun stuff: what you’d get if a Segway had sex with a unicycle, and what toddlers really do when they’re left alone in the back yard.

I’m not sure how long it will take to get all that together. Certainly by noon, maybe sooner.


The Monday Morning Teaser

I was only going to do a short weekly-summary note on the House passing a repeal of the estate tax. But then I started reading conservative blogs arguing against the “death tax”, and remembering what I learned from being executor of my father’s estate. It got too long for the summary, so it turned into one of this week’s featured articles: “Death, Taxes, and the American Dream”.  That should be out sometime around 8 EDT. (I’m back home in the East.)

The other featured article continues the 2016 speech series by looking at Marco Rubio’s announcement speech. Short version: If your campaign is about being the new face with new ideas for a new century, you really ought to include one of those new ideas in your speech. Because “we need new ideas” is not a new idea. Gary Hart tried it in 1984, and his campaign started going south when Walter Mondale asked: “Where’s the beef?”

The weekly summary includes the debate about Social Security that Chris Christie started. And attending a Christie town hall meeting in New Hampshire Wednesday — I’ll get to the content of it some other week — caused me to make some observations about the importance of town hall meetings. (Christie is really good at them.) Also: a medical ethics professor live-tweeted from the abstinence-sex-education presentation the public schools inflicted on her son, and the North Carolina legislature is debating a proposal that would pretty much wreck the Research Triangle.

I’ll close the summary with a new sports craze from Germany. It involves a ping-pong table, a miniature soccer ball, and your head. My neck aches just from watching it.

Expect the Rubio article around 9 and the weekly summary by 11.


The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m still in Arizona, so everything is running a little later than usual. The featured post this week will continue the 2016 Stump Speeches series, focusing this week on Rand Paul’s announcement speech. (Yesterday, Hillary also said she’s running; maybe I’ll get to her next week.) Figure that to come out around 10 or 11 eastern time.

The weekly summary will include the Walter Scott shooting, some 150th-anniversary articles about the end of the Civil War that make similar points to my “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, and two mini book reviews, before closing with Mary Poppins’ plea for a higher minimum wage. Expect that around noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week I finally had to recognize that the 2016 campaign had started. This week I begin covering it. I plan to do a series where I look at the stump speeches of all the major candidates, because I’ve learned in past campaigns that often they’re saying something different from what is being covered in the mainstream press.

So this week I need two featured posts: one to explain what the series is and the other to get it started by examining Ted Cruz announcement speech at Liberty University. They’re both more-or-less done, so they should be out shortly.

In the weekly summary, there’s still the “religious freedom” controversy, which I’ll catch up on and explain how I think the law ought to balance the competing values involved (as it seems to be doing in Colorado). But the more important development of the week was the announcement of the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran. And there was a massacre in Africa. I’ll close with a stand-up routine by Trevor Noah, who has been named as the next host of The Daily Show.

I’m writing from Arizona rather than my usual New Hampshire, so the usual schedule may slip a little. In the Eastern time zone, the weekly summary may not appear until afternoon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’ve been wondering when to start talking about 2016. Lots of pundits started before all the 2014 votes were counted, which seemed a little early to me. But Ted Cruz has officially announced his candidacy, and other unannounced candidates are finding reasons to meet with voters here in New Hampshire, so I guess it’s on.

With Elizabeth Warren still insisting she won’t run, I’m still not seeing any Democratic threat to Hillary. But I’m not buying the Jeb-is-inevitable talk on the Republican side, so I expect some fireworks there. I can’t predict who will prevail — maybe Jeb, maybe not — but I can describe a little about how the decision process will play out, building on the model of the GOP I constructed for the 2012 campaign in “The Four Flavors of Republican“. I’ll lay that out in this week’s featured post “2016: Understanding the Republican Process”, which should be out around nine or so.

The weekly summary discusses (what else?) Indiana’s new right-to-discriminate law, which as far as I can see has nothing to do with religious freedom. I make fun of CNN’s ghoulish 24/7 coverage of yet another air disaster and Fox’s nearly-as-total focus on Bowe Bergdahl. Meanwhile, Yemen has a civil war nobody can win; ObamaCare turns five; Harry Reid announces his retirement; and an inattentive Celtics fan loses his girlfriend to the Bulls mascot.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last six months or so, my background reading project has been about the disturbing below-American-radar changes that have been happening in Israel during the last few decades. In my files I have a long shapeless “Israel’s Identity Crisis” article that is far from ready for public consumption. But I was able to pull together some of those thoughts this week to discuss the significance for myself and for Americans in general of how Prime Minister Netanyahu’s turn-to-the-dark-side saved his political career. He trashed Obama, the peace process, and Israel’s Arab citizens — and the voters loved it.

I’m still debating on the title, which currently is “What Just Happened?”. This is the kind of article where every sentence has to be phrased just right, so even though it seems complete I probably won’t get it out until 9 or 10.

The weekly summary will probably be later than usual, maybe noon or one.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For a current-events blog, The Weekly Sift focuses an unusual amount of its attention on the past. That’s because I believe American history is often mistold and misunderstood, leaving most Americans with a false image of who we are and where our current problems come from.

This is especially true with regard to race, slavery, and the Civil War. Three of the Sift’s most popular posts retell the post-Civil-War history of America: “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, “A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System“, and “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“.
 This week I push back into the pre-Civil-War period with a review of Edward Baptist’s recent book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

In the usual high-school U.S. history class, slavery is what Alfred Hitchcock used to call a MacGuffin: something for the characters to compete over that has no real significance otherwise. (The Maltese Falcon, for example). From the Constitutional Convention to the Civil War, white politicians come up with all kinds of plots to increase or diminish slavery, but what the slaves actually do is only discussed in sidebars, if at all. So, for example, “Dred Scott” is a story about the Supreme Court, not about Dred Scott. Even abolitionism is mainly the story of William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe, with African Americans making only cameo appearances.

Baptist turns all that upside-down, and tells the Washington-to-Lincoln history of America as the story of slaves and their enslavers: How the work of slaves built the wealth of America, and how the battle to control those slaves and that wealth structured America. Telling the story that way, it turns out, connects all kinds of episodes that seem like a random list of stuff-that-happened in the usual telling.

I figure to have that post out by nine. The weekly summary (let’s say around 11) will talk about the Republican senators’ letter to Iran; the resignations, protests, and shootings that resulted from the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson; the racist-frat flap at University of Oklahoma; and a few other things, including the death of Terry Pratchett.


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